- The Washington Times - Monday, August 5, 2019

On the court, Washington Mystics small forward Aerial Powers is a good WNBA player with solid, respectable career averages: three rebounds and nine points a game.

But in the EA Sports video game “NBA Live,” Powers is an unstoppable superstar, dropping 60 points a game and dominating the competition — at least that’s the case when her dad is at the controls.

The Detroit native says the elder Powers enjoys taking on the role of the younger Powers when he plays the video game, which added WNBA stars last year to the traditional roster of male avatars — LeBron James, Kevin Durant and the rest of the NBA.

Powers talks about coming home and finding her father engrossed in a session of “NBA Live” — and posting some eye-popping numbers while playing as his daughter.

“My dad is sitting there playing the game and I’m like, ‘You playing with us?’ And he was like ‘Yeah, look how much you drop,’” she said. “I’m like, ‘You’re not passing the ball to anybody.’”

Powers‘ dad is just one fan vicariously recreating the in-game exploits of real-world athletes by playing games as their digital avatars. It’s exciting for family and friends. Powers says she has received tweets and Instagram tags from fans all over, playing and scoring as her character, but it’s even more of a thrill for the athletes themselves.

“Being able to see yourself is crazy,” Powers said. “It’s just amazing.”

Powers and other pros see digital sports as a fun and casual way to engage with fans.

Washington Redskins running back Derrius Guice is another huge video-game fan. While he recovered from an injury last year, he used games like “Madden” to hone his football instincts.

Guice’s teammate, Jonathan Allen is already planning a post-football gaming career.

Fellow Redskins running back Chris Thompson is also a gamer. He started playing “Fortnite” after a developer reached out to him with a code.

“When I played it, I loved it and I immediately fell in love with all of the battle royal type games because of Fortnite,” Thompson said.

The 28-year-old running back stopped playing the game about six months later, after feeling like he wasn’t as good as any of the other players. But after releasing his gamer tag to fans on social media, he rekindled his love for gaming.

“I played with a couple people and they really help make gaming fun for me again, so I love it, I love video games,” Thompson said. “I think it’s a way to just reach people all over the world and also it does really help a lot of people mentally.”

The running back participated in a Fortnite tournament this summer that paired celebrities and professional gamers. Thompson’s team didn’t place.

“We didn’t do too well but it was fun, though,” Thompson said. “I feel like Fortnite changed the whole scope of what video games are and what they can be. It reaches out to kids from the age of five to 50, 60, if you’re that old and still love playing video games.”

The gaming industry’s decision to include WNBA avatars, of course, hits home with women like Powers.

“You know as a little girl, I’ve always wanted to be in the WNBA,” Powers said. “If you didn’t go to any WNBA games and [since] social media wasn’t that big yet, you didn’t know too much. Now we have social media and on top of that, you have video games which so many people play … I think it’s going to help the future generations.”

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